11/15/2011 09:22 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

"Tough, Tough, Tough"

Last night as I watched the extraordinary story of Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, there were moments when my eyes filled up. Seeing those pictures of Gabby looking weak in the first weeks after the shooting and watching her struggle is hard. But there were more moments when my fist was up in the air, cheering along with every victory and every milestone and every moment when Gabby's spirit and her big, strong heart reminded me of the woman she is. And then I realized that unconsciously, I was mimicking Gabby -- that unstoppable determination, the glee she takes in a job well done, expressed by that jaunty arm flung out into the world around her like punctuation.

Watching her last night, I saw so clearly the woman we have all come to love so much -- but even tougher, even stronger, and even -- this amazed me -- even more gracious. Her love for her mom, for her husband, for the team around her shine through, in her proud eyes and her ready hugs. Watching Gabby tackle challenges -- again and again -- that would bring any normal person low with resolute calm and total focus was truly inspirational. And hearing her refuse anger and turn away from rage and despondence is awesome.

Giffords and her Motorcylce

Like Gabby, I'm a woman of the West -- while Gabby calls herself a daughter of the desert, I'm a daughter of the mountains, and we love that same big wide sky. I love that Gabby rides horses, rides a fast mountain bike -- Hell, Gabby rides a motorcycle. I think not enough people know that, and I'm glad they can learn about it in the book Mark has written, with some help from Gabby. In Gabby's wide smile and her bright eyes last night I heard so much possibility. Wherever that road under the big wide sky takes her, Gabby will be charting her own course -- we learned that for sure last night.

Meanwhile, here at EMILY's List, the community I'm a part of -- which has been Gabby's community, too, since that first race when she laced up her tennis shoes and walked the district -- that determination, that strength and that graciousness will be our north star going forward. We'll channel her grit, her infectious humor, her high standards for herself, and those around her. Because that's what real leadership is -- real leadership, as Gabby's friend Kirsten Gillibrand has said, is knowing that even when you can't control what life brings you, you can control how you react to it.

Gabby's continuing gift to all of us is setting the bar higher, every day, in facing her own hurdles and overcoming them, again and again, for what we can all accomplish. Gabby, we thank you again and again, for your service, your spirit, and your example for all of us -- now and in the future -- of what human beings are capable of.

Click here to send a message a support to Gabby through EMILY's List.